By Frank Wolf
The band was rockin, the hot chocolate was flowin and the pucks were flyin. It could only mean one thing, the Cataract City Hockey Classic was about to crown a new champion. Inside a packed Hyde Park Ice Pavilion four hockey clubs went toe-to-toe Thursday and Friday and when the final buzzer sounded it was the Lew-Port Lancers left celebrating. Lew-Port beat Niagara Falls 4-1 to capture their first Cataract championship.
After defeating North Tonawanda 4-2 on Thursday, the Lancers set out to unseat the reigning Cataract City champ Niagara Falls. It didn’t take long either. Lew-Port got on the board just five minutes into the game. Senior forward Mike Stack buried a shot passed Wolverines goaltender Pat Sisler to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Niagara Falls had opportunities to score in the opening period but Nick Shotwell, who posts a 5-1 Fed record this season brought his “A” game with him Friday. Shotwell stopped all nine Niagara Falls shots in the first period including two great saves while the Lancers were killing off a minor penalty.
In the second period Niagara Falls fell into penalty trouble. Mat Carden, who has 7 goals in league play this year snapped home a loose puck to give the Lancers a two-goal lead. Teammates James Nossavage and Matt Spameni (both seniors) assisted on the power play goal.
Moments later the Wolverines caught a break, with Spameni already serving a minor penalty, Jacob Lombardi was called for tripping. That gave Niagara Falls a 5-on-3 man advantage for thirty-four seconds. But Lew-Port’s outstanding penalty killing units turned away any Niagara Falls advances and created offensive opportunities for themselves.
Shortly after letting a golden opportunity slip away Wolverines sophomore defenseman Jacob Robertson took an undisciplined penalty, spearing one of the Lew-Port players. Robertson was ejected and Niagara Falls were handed a 4-minute major penalty.
That’s where Lombardi redeemed himself. He set up Andrew Carrigan for the Lancers 3rd goal of the game at 13:32 of the 2nd.
Lew Port played well defensively for much of this game, especially junior Ryan Frazier who saw big minutes and in critical situations. His play Friday earned him high-praise from his coach and the famous “hard-hat” which he wore proudly afterwards. The Lancers gave up a 3rd period goal to Michael Olszewski that helped cut the Wolverines deficit to 2 goals with under 3:30 in regulation.
While on the power play and with less than three minutes to play, Niagara Falls pulled Sisler in favor of the extra attacker. Moments later Carden scored his 2nd of the game to round out the scoring.
“Last year we did good but we didn’t get the outcome we wanted today” NF junior forward Anthony Coty said after the loss. In the opening minutes Coty caught Liam Mazierski of Lew-Port with his head down deep in Lancers territory hoping to set the tone early. The Niagara Falls fans were into it, especially with their school band going strong during each stoppage of play. The Wolverines just couldn’t find a way to beat Shotwell. Niagara Falls threw twenty-seven pucks at the junior netminder but only one slipped passed him.
“Our guys were going strong, playing hard, getting pucks to the net” Shotwell said. “It was good to have the lead, definitely helped.”
Lew-Port finished with thirty-four shots on goal and after the game coach Kevin Kirsch was all smiles. “All the kids were talking on the bench, let’s do it for Peters” Kirsch said after the game. The players were referring to Jacob Peters, a junior and one of their best centers. The forward missed the game to deal with the loss of his Grandfather on Friday.
“First time we’ve won it. The kids came through and really played well, it was a huge effort” Kirsch said.
Carden finished with two-goals and an assist “We were ready, this is our arch rival” he said after the game. “We started off slow yesterday and needed a quick start tonight.”
“Our guys didn’t quit” Wolverines coach Stan Wojton commented after the loss. “They kept on working hard. We’re certainly capable of playing better, we have some tough opponents on the schedule coming up. We have to play as a team and we’ll get better.”
Olszewski and Spameni were chosen as the Player of the Game for their respective teams.
NT Tops Amherst in Consolation Game
North Tonawanda scored the first four goals of the game versus Amherst en route to a 6-4 win Friday. The Lumberjacks scored twice in the opening minutes prompting Tigers head coach Jim Ryan to use his only timeout. Moments later it was 3-0 North Tonawanda.
Amherst gave up the 4th goal early in the 2nd period but then caught a few breaks. With a 4-minute power play in the Tigers favor, Amherst was able to cut the deficit in half, thanks to goals by Alex Braden and Nick Smith. The Tigers then pulled within a goal after Connor Tanevich, a three-year Varsity player blasted a shot from the point. It was Tanevich’s first ever goal in the Fed.
Unfortunately the Tigers were unable to keep up the momentum, NT received a crucial goal from Jason Lindhurst, extending the Lumberjacks lead to two. Trent Woodroe made it 5-3 with under three minutes left in the 2nd period.
In the 3rd Lindhurst added his 2nd goal giving NT a 6-3 lead. Amherst scored the last goal of the game with 6:43 left to go in regulation but the 6-4 score held up through the final buzzer.
“Obviously wasn’t happy with the start. Pleased with the way they played in the second but you can’t give up early leads like that and expect to beat anybody” Coach Ryan said after the loss.
NT was on a mission from the opening face-off. “We thought we should have beaten Lew-Port” Lindhurst said post-game. Jacob Riley earned the win for NT making 23 saves in net. Evan Czora made his 2nd start between the pipes in as many days for Amherst, he made twenty-five saves.
“I didn’t know how to celebrate after I scored, I’ve never done it” said Tanevich. He was named the Player of the Game for Amherst. Rhett Stauffer finished with a goal and an assist for NT and was named the Lumberjacks Player of the Game. Ethan Henry and Jack Tollar also scored for NT. Spencer Scalise added two helpers.
Jeff Tyler had a goal and an assist for the Tigers.
“Our schedule is going to be tough in January so it’s nice to end the year with a win” coach Al Zbytek said after the win. “We’re pretty confident we can compete but the division 3 teams will be a challenge coming up.”
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